Rough Creek Trail Run

I ran the Rough Creek 10k Trail Run yesterday. WOW! It was an awesome experience. I’ve never completed a trail run before and I now know that when they say

  • steep ascents and descents for a bit, rolling hills for a while, and flats to open up and run your heart out.
  • well-groomed non-technical trail and rocky, rugged, technical sections too!

They MEAN IT!!

Dang. My calves are sore and the bottoms of my feet are feeling raw from planting on those rocks. I’m going to have to go shoe shopping before next year!

 

I’m proud of my time and place. There were 83 10k people with 51 being female. I came in at 44/83. As is my usual, I’m right in the middle of the pack. In my age group I was 6 out of 23. Not bad.

Now that I know that the course for the 10k is really closer to 7 miles, I will plan better and do more trail running. Okay, so I didn’t do any trail running prior to this, so even one run would result in a better time for next year!

Nonetheless, I had two goals for yesterday. Not fall and finish. I accomplished both!

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Experiences of the Exceptionally Average

I’m going to tell you something about myself. I’m average.

There.

I said it.

It’s a relief.

There is something to be said for understanding who you are. This understanding has been earned the hard way.. through blood, sweat and tears.. but I truly appreciate the process and what I have learned about myself.

So here is what I know.

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I’m an average artist.

I’m an average runner.

I’m an average musician.

I’m an average teacher.

I’m an average friend.

I’m an average parent.

I’m average.

And I’m okay with that!

Why? Because being average doesn’t mean I am mediocre. Being average doesn’t mean that I don’t strive on a daily basis to be better or do more. But being average does mean that I have had the opportunity to recognize my strengths and weaknesses and that I am possibly more of a realist than someone who lives life from the front.

I want to share with you some of what I have learned from being thoroughly, completely, fully and even exceptionally average…

  1. It will not be easy.

    Learning to read was hard for me. I continued to work at this long after my peers had mastered reading fluently. I didn’t read well until 4th grade and this ability didn’t come easily. It took lots of repetition and reading aloud, but finally, the light switch was flipped in my brain.

  2. It will not be quick.

    One of the life lessons from the ranks of the average is that you learn perseverance. Be it homework, test preparations, learning a new role/job, or running distance miles, these tasks will take time and repetition.  Today as I plodded down the road contemplating life, I embraced the 11:30 pace that I was “running.” For whatever reason, in this season my running pace is a good two minutes plus slower than my old pace.. and that old pace wasn’t fast! But the grace in being average is that I didn’t give up. If I had once been fast, I would have quit at this pace. But living life in the average lane means that I understand that most things are going to take time!

  3. It will not be seen.

    Unless you are the valedictorian or salutatorian of your graduating class, no one else is going to remember where you sat at graduation!  I graduated number 21 in my class… since I don’t even remember if it was the second or third row… how can I expect anyone else too!

  4. It will not be flashy.

    Life is not made up of paparazzi moments. Life is made up of work and sweat and grit and occasionally, you get to be a photobomber.

But life as an exceptionally average person is not drudgery. We, the average in all things, are incredibly employable!

Why? Because of our experiences in life! When you learn through life experiences that life isn’t easy, quick, seen or flashy.. you learn to find meaning in the process and enjoy the journey!

So here is my advice to all the  “exceptionally average”… embrace it, acknowledge it, and then be empowered to do more.

UIL OAP JUDGING

As the 2017-2018 school year approaches and it’s time to hire UIL One-Act Play judges, it’s time for me to post my judging philosophy.  Over the last few years as a clinician and judge I have worked with shows from Junior High to 5A. I love and respect all levels.

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It’s judge hiring season for UIL One-Act Play. I remember as a director how stressful this time was. The wonder and the fear… so much responsibility to give just one person! And what if the judge hated our play?!! It truly was a nerve-wrecking process.

Now I sit at the other side of the table at the Director’s Meetings and I see the same stress and fear. I love that most of the district’s have gone to panel judging so that there are three sets of eyes and ears (and perspectives) as this is essentially a playoff game with no preseason or district competition to see where you rank among other schools!

For directors and contest managers still looking for judges and looking at my profile, here are my take-aways.

I love UIL OAP… all of it. The camaraderie, the competition, the nerves and the joy.

I respect you and the work that you have put in to get to this point. I competed in non-advancing OAP shows as a student. We worked just as hard as the advancing shows.

Resources are limited. I know that some schools have state of the art equipment and stages and some of you don’t even have a single 4×8 platform. As a director, I worked at 2A, 3A and 4A schools. I have lived in both worlds.

I value your students. As a judge, I give honest critiques, but my goal is that every student walks away feeling empowered by the UIL OAP experience. I don’t believe in belittling students, nor do I believe that it anything is gained by making a student feel as if he or she was solely responsible for the failure or the success of a production.

I appreciate the opportunity and I don’t take it lightly. When I sign my judging ballot, please know that I take the responsibility seriously… I have read your play prior to competition, I have watched the production you have placed on the stage, I have taken detailed notes, and I have given constructive feedback. It is only after the awards and critiques are over that I take a deep breath of relief. Getting it right is that important.

Thanks for taking the time to consider me for a judging assignment.

Emily McLemore

Adjunct Drama Instructor: Ranger College
Visual Art Teacher: Stephenville High School

MFA, Theatre: Florida Atlantic University
BA, Theatre: Hardin-Simmons Universit

All for the +1, tweet, share and a follow

Social Media. It is a significant part of our lives.. whether we acknowledge it, believe it, or even if we want to run from it.

Good or bad, social media isn’t going to go away and refusing to figure out how to harness the positive attributes of social media because you hate the bad is like telling a teenager that “rock music is of the devil” and expecting the teen to stop listening to it!(And while no, I don’t believe such nonsense about rock music… I did hear that comment regularly from the ultra-conservative church that I went to as a child… but that is a blog story for another day..)

As a mom of daughters 17, 12, and 7 I am scared to death of what they will see and experience because of social media. But I can’t let that fear drive my decisions. I pray that they don’t have fake accounts and live secret lives on Instagram (if they have a “finsta” account I want to KNOW!!), but I hope that they don’t have choose to live fake lives in general! It’s my job as a parent to invest myself into their lives and make secret social media profiles so difficult that it isn’t worth the effort.

And I feel the same way about social media in the classroom. As a high school art teacher, I am constantly having to redirect students to spend more time on their art than on their phones. Snapchats are sent at a few hundred per minute. I’d like to believe that the majority of my students don’t use social media inappropriately, but given that they can’t stop themselves from looking, checking, snapping and posting everything that comes into their lives, I know that they are not going to consistently make decent choices. That is life.

So how do I model appropriate use? Because truly, that is where the teaching starts.. modeled behavior.

At home, I try not to post pictures of my children that they truly hate. My oldest daughter, Maddie keeps me in check. 🙂 Maddie is such a wise soul and reminds me that not every moment needs to be documented for the world and that basically life is a personal journey, not a social media journey. Yeah, I’m very grateful to have such an awesome 17 year old!

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At school, I takes dozens of pictures every day of students working. I have Stephenville High School Art Facebook and SvilleArt Instagram (that i forget to post on, so I have to tag my pictures from my personal account..eek.) but I post pictures regularly of students working. People love seeing my students in action and chronicling a work in progress is crucial for my students to see where they started and how far they have come by the time they finish their projects.

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One of the benefits of taking so many pictures of students at work is that there are no secrets in my classroom.  If a parent or an administrator wants to know what is going on, check my Facebook or Instagram feed… or better yet, come visit personally! There is no expectation of privacy in my classroom and that is a very good thing. No student or teacher needs to get so comfortable within their environment that they feel like it’s is a private room. What goes on in V21 DOESN’T stay in V21! Yes, I am a mentor and have lots of confidential conversations with students that I would never share on social media, but the general essence of my classroom isn’t a private or protected environment. And even if I wanted it to be, the reality is that with students and their devices, it wouldn’t be private anyway!

So as the world of technology gets murkier with each passing day, I firmly believe in the value of social media. I love that through the use of Facebook and Instagram the families and friends of my students get to see what they are learning and creating on an almost daily basis. No matter where in the world they live!

Are there problems? Of course there are. And this whole fake Instagram “finsta” stuff has me rattled for sure! But I have to keep asking questions and not letting the problems of social media scare me away from the benefits. As parents and teachers our job is to push, to prod, to teach, to encourage, to correct, to forgive, to inspire and to love.  Modeling appropriate use of social media for my students helps me to do that.

And those are my thoughts on the use of social media for  #EDUBLOGSCLUB PROMPT 19.

Sandwich Parenting

Sandwich Parenting… parenting your own children and parenting your parents. It isn’t easy. Maybe that’s why it’s called that, cause being caught inside both ends of the spectrum means that you end up smooshed like a piece of expired bologna.

Today was one of those days.

 

I don’t put this out there to get a woe is me. I am not a martyr. But I am very much the mom of three kids that need me and the daughter-in-law turned parent figure of a very vocal and needy mother-in-law. My husband takes the brunt of his mother’s ire, but man, oh man, parenting a parent while parenting your own children is difficult.

Below is a snapshot of two REAL CONVERSATIONS this morning…

with the 7 year old

Daughter: Can we go to the storage building?
Dad: Why?
Daughter: To get a dollhouse couch.
Dad: Not today. We are all sick and getting in the storage building would be bad for our allergies.
Daughter: (Tears) Why can’t I ever get what I want? Why don’t you understand me?…

 with the 77 year old

Mom: Can we go to the storage building?
Son: Why?
Mom: I want to look for some perfume.
Son: Not today. We are all sick and getting in the storage building would be bad for our allergies.
Mom: (Tears) Why can’t I ever get what I want? Why don’t you understand me?…

It’s the daily conversations like these that wear on your soul. You expect to have fights with your kids. That’s part of parenting. But having duplicate fights with a grown woman are hard to take on a daily basis.

What is truly frustrating to me is that I watched my father-in-law have these same conversations with his mother and Doug’s mom wasn’t happy with incredible stress that was placed on her husband because of it. By the time I joined the family Doug was a grown man and his parent’s were retired while caring for Doug’s dad’s parents.  But here I am watching the same situation, next generation, but our children are small enough to still need lots of parenting. I am trying my absolute best to not be bitter. Some days are harder than others.

So for those of you out there living in the land of sandwich parenting, let me say, you are not alone. It is tough and it feels like no matter the decision you make for your parent it isn’t the right one, but hold on and enjoy the very rare and brief moments when all the ingredients in the sandwich create a masterpiece.

 

Super Teacher Giveaway

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It’s the time of year when we need a reminder.. we teachers are super human.

Right now, I am buried in deadlines and am drowning in the very real needs of students. I figure I’m not alone in this!

Well, it just so happens that the blog prompt on #Edublogsclub for this week is to do a giveaway. Perfect timing!

So I made up this Super Teacher graphic and thought I’d use it for a giveaway. Sure, you are all welcome to just right click and save as.. but I’m talking about a real giveaway.

Like a tshirt, or a clipboard, or a poster. What do you think?

Comment on this post with what you would like for your Super Teacher item and I’ll choose a couple of people to send gifts to!

Nope, it’s not teacher appreciation week… but man, we need to be appreciated every week!

Enjoy you Super Teachers!

 

 

Winterguard, bruised knees and a powerful performance

I love watching Maddie perform. So much of our life is defined by the limitations that are put on her, that when she is able to participate in LIFE with her peers, we celebrate!

One of Maddie’s passions is colorguard/ winterguard. Participating in an event that is so hard on her body is costly to her. The exhaustion, sore muscles and constant bruising is a high price to pay, but worth it because she loves the sport.

Maddie is on Stephenville High School’s winterguard team and they have their championship competition on Saturday. On Tuesday, they were able to perform for the student body. They performed beautifully and it is always wonderful for their peers to see the amazing things that they are able to do!

Enjoy.

Are you willing to “Crucify your Baby?”

Hang around V21 and you will here…

“Are you ready to crucify your baby?”

“I’m ready to crucify my baby.”

Visitors and new students whip their heads around with a look of shock and horror on their faces. Then they turn and look at me incredulously. I just smile and say “Good!”

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Yep, that’s how we do feedback in my art room. We acknowledge the fact that it is going to feel like someone is tearing your baby apart. And by giving it a name, we can laugh a little as we struggle to improve.

If you want to be a better artist,  you have to be willing to take hard criticism of your artwork. No one wants to find out that other people don’t like their creation.. their masterpiece! So in my art class, we have a saying for this difficult, but very necessary process. It’s called “crucifying your baby.”

New people to my world are horrified. Outsiders are uncomfortable. Students in other disciplines that find their way into my world for an extracurricular event are unnerved. But that’s okay. My students understand, and after the first encounter enjoy being part of the “club.”

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With that said, the crucifying comes with parameters, strict expectations and modeled behavior. I have learned over the years that the absolute best way to teach students how to take criticism of their work is to first require them to criticize mine!

For example, this painting of my daughter Lexi has lived in my classroom as a work in progress for over a year. As I work on it in class, I use the progression and development as an opportunity to teach students to discuss and comment critically about a piece. Just from glancing at it, I see every flaw and every incomplete area. But my goal is to teach students to look for those areas and to be able to communicate their thoughts and how they would fix the problem.

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Early in the year, I start off by choosing a student to come up to my easel while the rest of the class watches. I tell the student about the piece and that I know there are problems. I point out a few areas that I don’t like that I need to fix and then I ask him/her what areas he/she saw that needed work.

My conversation starter is deliberate. In order to get students to see that I want the criticism, because I want to improve, I  have to show the student that I could see the problems and voice them as well.  By doing so, I model the example of how to state problem areas. If I get in a hurry and forgo this vulnerability with the students, then their criticism is superficial and their ability to take criticism often suffers.

In the end, while the “crucifying your baby” process sounds scary and is a memorable moment in the art room, students that want to improve get daily opportunities for feedback and quality criticism. On the flip side, students that don’t want to improve,  don’t. I used to force student to go around the room and take turns giving feedback, but I have learned that a student that doesn’t want to improve isn’t willing to take criticism and always has an excuse for why or what they did. So instead of forcing criticism, we now have a code phrase and students that are willing to embrace the opportunity thrive.

As an educator and an artist, I am always looking for ways to improve. I am always looking for ways to reach further and climb higher. I am willing to crucify my baby.

The question is, are you?

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This blog post was part of the #Edublogsclub Prompt #11 on Giving Feedback.

College Planning for Your Chronically Ill Child

Parenting is hard. Parenting a chronically ill child is even harder. Add a rare disease or two to the mix and well, it’s tough. There are so many unanswered questions, so many scary decisions that have to be made, so many what if’s. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about parenting a chronically ill child. We have made a lot of mistakes and by the grace of God, a lot of good decisions.

One of the best books I read very early was Love and Logic’s  Parenting Children with Health Issues. The real life stories and scenarios were parallel to our world, especially when no one around us understood our struggles, had heard of her diagnosis and couldn’t fathom our heartache.

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But now Maddie is a teenager, a junior in high school and we are looking at colleges. It feels like we are in unchartered territory.

Do a google search  that includes chronically ill and college planning and the results are limited at best. So, like everything else in Maddie’s life, it feels like we are once again on an island of the unknown trying to figure out what to do and where to go while we are already lost.

But, if the last 16 years have taught me anything, it is to research, research and research some more and keep a spreadsheet of my findings! So that’s what I did. Maddie, Doug and I have talked many times about what she wants to pursue as a career and we used her ideas as a starting point.

We came up with a set of criteria to measure the universities that we were interested in and added colleges as we found them. Besides the requirement of having a music degree, Maddie didn’t want to be too far from her doctors (or us), didn’t want a university that had a sprawling campus, she wanted small degree classes, options for her limited diet, and cost was a factor.

Below you can see a portion of the spreadsheet.

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Then last fall we started visiting schools and Maddie took the ACT. People were surprised that we were already so serious about college planning, but when your child is medically fragile, you don’t have the luxury of winging things.IMG_8230

On our first round of visits, we learned that the size of the campus was going to be a crucial factor in the ultimate decision of where Maddie would go to school. One campus was sprawling, one campus a little smaller but the classes would be back and forth and back and forth in different buildings all day, and one campus was incredibly beautiful.. but tons of stairs.

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The ability to get around the campus easily knocked off some good contenders, but in order for Maddie to be the healthiest and most successful, she can’t put her body in a position to climb hills and stairs all day everyday.

During this time Maddie also was researching career options in music and came across Music Therapy. This was a light bulb moment for her. Music Therapy would use all of Maddie’s skills and talents AND life experiences! In choosing to narrow her career path even more, the college options changed and focused in again.

Instead of looking a dozens of universities, we were now looking at four that had music therapy degrees knowing that if none of these fit she could just major in music and get her master’s degree later.

In February, we scheduled a visit and met with an admissions representative at the university that is her first choice. (Texas Woman’s University)

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It was a cold and rainy day, but the university felt right. Hallelujah! Everyone we met was so helpful and nice and encouraging!

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Will Maddie go to this university? I don’t know. I think it is a definite probable. We still have to figure out some of the logistics like the need for a private room and things like that, but based on the criteria we came up with and the good vibes we got on campus, I’m hopeful.

So what have we learned so far?

  1. Create a criteria sheet (like a rubric used in school, creating criteria keeps the emotion in check).
  2. Start early. Schedule a college visit the fall of your Junior year if not before. Maddie had spent time on two different campuses during the summer at camps, so that gave us a head start.
  3. Take the ACT and/or SAT by the fall of your Junior year. By having test scores available when talking to the admissions representatives, we were able to have initial conversations about possible scholarships.
  4. Know your class rank and class size. GPA is good too, but it is the class rank that was important for our conversations about automatic acceptance into the different universities.
  5. Go on the tour!! I’m not a big fan of scheduled tours of any kind, but the walking tours with the campus representatives have been incredibly enlightening. At one university we walked the entire campus, but we only went inside a few of the buildings. Disappointing! At another university we met the university president while on the tour. Very cool! At the third university, we got to go in the buildings where Maddie’s classes would be and random students offered to help answer questions when the tour guide didn’t know much about the music program.
  6. Establish a contact with an admissions representative. Maddie contacted the admissions rep prior to the visit with some dual credit questions. The admissions rep remembered her and was very complementary about Maddie’s initiative and willingness to work hard to be ready for college.

Finally, my most important lesson is to look at the degree program and classes NOW.

Maddie’s chosen degree has her taking 18 or 19 hours each semester of college. There is absolutely no way that her body can handle that. When we discussed this with the admissions rep, it was suggested that Maddie take ALL of her core classes outside of the normal fall/spring class cycle and were encouraged to get as much of them done via dual credit and/or community college before arriving on campus her freshman year. With this in mind, prior to scheduling Maddie’s senior year of high school, we talked classes and put together scenarios over and over.

It was weeks of work. But we were able to rearrange her course load so that she will be able to take 12 hours each semester. This means that this summer, yes, the summer between her junior and senior year of high school, she will take 9 hours at the local community college. All 3 classes will go towards her college core and 2 will be used as dual credit for high school.  She will then take another 6 hours in the fall and 6 in the spring. So essentially, we are taking a 4 year program and backing it up into high school and making it a 6 year program. Given the availability of in-person and online dual credit classes, there is no reason to wait and retake a course later.

Getting your child ready for college and making decisions about careers is hard. But unlike the tests that Maddie is facing this week that required 9 vials of blood, these decisions are pretty basic in the grand scheme of things.

One of the lessons we have learned from having a fragile child
and having to fight for her everyday
is that we know that choosing the
“wrong” university or “wrong” degree path
isn’t life and death.

If all of our research, planning and preparation end up with her at a university that isn’t a good fit,then no worries, she can transfer elsewhere.

If only she could transfer away from her rare diseases and chronic illness.